A Melbourne woman will fight a $496 driving fine she copped after a policeman allegedly saw her using her smartphone while driving.
Michelle Course, 34, was driving in Victoria’s North Warrandyte and was pulled over by a policeman on the afternoon of 2 November. She was handed a penalty of four demerit points as well as the fine.
But Course says he didn’t listen when she explained she wasn’t using her phone at all.
“There’s no way that I could be eating my Magnum Ego and holding my phone and driving, all at the same time,” she told A Current Affair.
When the policeman pulled her over, she still had her ice cream wrapper and stick she had placed on the console, she added.
“So I had everything there to show. And later on, embarrassingly enough, I still had chocolate on my t-shirt from eating it.”
The policeman claims to have seen the golden glint of a mobile phone in Course’s car, but she said it could have been the jewellery she was wearing.
In efforts to prove her innocence, Course says she has further evidence: the receipt for her Magnum Double Caramel Ego from a Coles Express petrol station.
The receipt reveals she bought the ice cream at 4:34pm. The fine was written up six minutes later.
“Sometimes you can get it wrong,” she said.
“That day I was eating an ice cream, I wasn't on my phone. I shouldn't have to pay it. I wasn't doing anything wrong.”
Course is a beauty therapist and has been unable to work for the last several months during Melbourne’s lockdown.
“We haven't been able to work for seven months of this year, and I only just returned to work for a week. Copping this fine – it's your whole wage gone,” Course said.
Responding to the report, Victoria Police issued a statement confirming Course had been dealt a penalty.
“Police can confirm they did intercept a woman in North Warrandyte on 2 November in relation to using her mobile phone while driving,” the statement reads.
“The woman was issued a $496 dollar fine which also incurs four demerit points. As in any case where a person receives an infringement notice they have the opportunity to have the matter determined by a court, where they will have an opportunity to present their circumstances to a Magistrate.”
Lawyer Adam Cockayne specialises in fighting wrongful infringements and said he believes Course should “definitely” fight the fine.
“If she's innocent then the fine should be withdrawn,” he said.
“80 per cent of those fines are being thrown out by the Magistrates.”
Is it legal to eat or drink while driving?
Though the law differs state by state, there are no specific road rules that prohibit drivers from eating behind the wheel in Victoria, according to law firm Leanne Warren & Associates.
“However, it is considered to be an offence of ‘Careless Driving’ not to drive with due skill, care and attention,” the law firm stated.
“For example, if the consumption of food or non-alcoholic beverage whilst operating a motor vehicle causes you to crash into another vehicle, you may be charged with careless driving.”
But obviously, consuming an alcoholic beverage behind the wheel is illegal – no matter what your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is.
Those found guilty of careless driving in Victoria will cop a fine of up to 12 penalty units if it’s their first offence.
For second and subsequent offences, they’ll face up to a maximum 25 penalty units as well as three demerit points. The Court may also decide to cancel or disqualify your license for a time.
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